When scholars someday look back at the decline of the United States, they may conclude Donald Trump was the responsible party (or at least the lynchpin or at the very least the straw that broke the camel’s back). Trump is one man, but he is only one man who requires support from a majority of US citizens. That is all he needs to destroy this country. The greatness of our Constitution that we so proudly proclaim to other nations could be no more. Our forefathers predicted a man like Donald Trump could salivate over power and abuse that power in ways that could destroy the sanctity of the country. We have realized this and have worked hard to fight tyranny, as can be seen in our Revolutionary War in which hundreds of thousands perished. The last significant fight against tyranny involved an amendment ratified in 1951 limiting the terms of a President to two. The Constitution has a series of checks and balances on this power, but, most importantly, this power grab must be supported by a majority of Americans. Until now, I felt relatively safe from tyranny. Donald Trump is the figurehead of a country that has made a series of blunders that led to his rise. Instead, it will be a series of transgressions that could lead us to a hell of tyranny. Three major blunders have occurred already and a fourth could happen which could turn us back to the days of King George III.
Let’s start with the most basic and first most fundamental blunder: the lack of teaching of what this Constitution means to our country, to its livelihood, and the success of its people. In a recent Pew Study, only 40% of Americans were “committed” to representative democracy. In spite of all the insidiously harmful proclamations and actions of President Trump, he still commands an approval rating of 44%. His lowest approval rating while in office has been 35%. He is merely single digits and 3 years, if the polls are anywhere close to accurate, from being reelected! His behavior is being normalized in our society and he is successfully making his case to a near majority of Americans.
The fundamental greatness of our country is not our natural resources, our ingenuity, nor our immigrants. It is our Constitution. The Constitution is why we thrive and why we use our natural resources, our ingenuity and attract immigrants to our country so successfully. The Constitution allows the predictability in the rule of law that promotes the stability of human behavior necessary to maintain successful investments and promote creativity. It gives us predictability to go about our lives producing goods and services that create the “magic of the market.” Somehow, the Republicans, the party most linked to corporate greed, seem to think that promotion of Trump’s power will preserve their interests in this country. The common refrain is, “Better to have Trump than Hillary.” With the rise of Donald Trump and Republicans who sit on their hands blabbering absolute nonsense to him by methodically stroking his ego (and all the while controlling him in a Marxist fashion), we now see the pitfalls of liberal democracy: a population that has little interest in maintaining the sanctity of the greatest document the world has ever seen–the Constitution—because we have had political stability for so long. Voters no longer worry about who is elected President because they figure whoever it is makes little difference in our lives. We call this complacency. Many people don’t vote since they feel the existence of this country’s greatness is a given and they have more important things to do.
We can lose our freedoms in a heartbeat if we are not careful. We need to promote the Constitution and its teachings in our schools more effectively and if we don’t, our basic foundation for our fortunate existence will be torn asunder. We have done a poor job in our schools to promote civics and we are seeing this now in 2018 when people like Devin Nunes, Mike Pence, and Mitch McConnell care more about getting reelected than promoting, preserving, and defending the Constitution. Shame on all of you for bowing down to the despicable King Trump!
The second blunder is the decision of the Citizens United case by the Supreme Court. In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United versus the Federal Election Commission that unlimited communications by corporations is allowed in the support of a candidate. They ruled that essentially if the country limited money being spent on ads for political candidates it is limiting free speech. The Supreme Court struck down the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (more commonly the McCain/Feingold Act). It argued that an “electioneering communication” by a corporation can be made (not a direct contribution to the candidate, however), in spite of the BCRA. The majority opinion wrote, “If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.” Any attempt to subject corporate communications to be silenced would now be unconstitutional. While individuals and corporations would not be allowed to contribute money directly to campaigns, they would now be allowed to spend unlimited amounts of their own money to subject candidates to their propagandist wrath. Money is power and anytime unlimited amounts of money can be spent on political candidates, regardless how the money is spent, fundamentally reinforces the existence of a plutocracy. This free spending can now only be reversed through an amendment to the constitution. See Move to Amend.
In a famous phrase, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stephens wrote a dissenting opinion on this case that states, “A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold.” He cited other forms of free speech that are limited in day to day discourse. For example, laws still exist against yelling “Fire!” in a crowded room. President Obama responded to this decision by stating as well that this decision “gives special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington—while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates.” Finally, in a New York Times editorial, it was written, “The Supreme Court has handed lobbyists a new weapon. A lobbyist can now tell any elected official if you vote wrong, my company, labor union, or interest group will spend unlimited sums explicitly advertising against your re-election.”
Our third blunder was to allow Republicans to essentially filibuster or threaten the nomination of a Supreme Court appointee by President Obama indefinitely. When President Obama nominated Merrick Garland soon after the death of Antonin Scalia in February 2016, Republicans who held control of the Senate, refused to consider his nomination. It wasn’t until after the elections that they would consider a nominee. This has major repercussions. It essentially means that when one party from the legislative branch controls the judicial branch of government, they theoretically can delay a nominee’s confirmation forever. While there was nothing set in the Constitution allowing this indefinite delay to occur, it sets a precedent in the separation of the three branches of government. In a law review article by Bradley Kar and Jason Mazzone, they could not find a single case in which this type of delay has ever taken place in our country’s history. It wasn’t until April 7, 2017 that Neil Gorsuch, a nominee appointed by President Trump, that the Senate confirmed him. The Republicans to date have not paid a political price for this delay tactic as they continue to hold majorities in the Senate and the House.
Our fourth and most costly blunder could now occur. With President Trump now arguing that he is “above the law” and that he does not have to adhere to the law, the Supreme Court does have to answer his question, “Do I really have to go before Mr. Mueller who holds a subpoena?” This according to his attorney Rudy Giuliani, is his position. This is now headed for a showdown in the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court rules that Mr. Trump does not have to answer to a subpoena by Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel in the Russian investigation, then President Trump could become King Trump. He then would have the power to do essentially anything he wants as President and the only repercussion would be for him to be 1) impeached or 2) voted out of office.
Whether it is Putin in Russia, Orban in Hungary, or Trump in the United States, if one controls the key power structures and institutions of a democracy, then one can become a strongman with unfettered power using propaganda to subtly promote his hidden agenda. Trump’s swooning over these types of men, especially Putin, is alarming! His recent renunciation of NATO and his insistence on the inclusion of Russia in the G7 is strikingly bizarre. This consolidation of power in one solitary person can then lead to fundamental changes in the execution of our laws, our court decisions, and even our daily lives as one person dominates all the major institutions of a country. What is particularly dangerous is that these four blunders could actually make Mr. Trump into a strongman who could undermine our fundamental foundation as the greatest constitutional/liberal democracy in the world. Worse yet, it could lead to a civil war or eventually to a holocaust or die-off on a world stage involving all nations on this planet that would make Hitler’s Germany merely a first act in a recurring Shakespearean tragedy.